UK politicians hatch plans to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland

Lawmakers in the UK Parliament are working on two legislative plans to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK that continues to ban same-sex marriage, due to opposition from the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party.

Following the collapse of Northern Ireland’s devolved power-sharing government, campaigners on the region have said that responsibility for bringing about equal marriage now lies with the UK Parliament.

Lawmakers are currently drawing up two separate plans to bring equal marriage to the region, after Ithe UK government said it would not block a bill on the issue and Irish Republican party Sinn Féin gave its own backing to proposals.

Conor McGinn, the Northern Ireland-born Labour MP for St. Helens North, is fronting one of the plans, and is set to bring a backbench bill on the issue before the House of Commons next month.

Mr McGinn said:  “I’m taking forward a Ten Minute Rule bill at the end of March, that can decisively test the mood of the House of Commons.

“If anyone objects to extending equal marriage to Northern Ireland, they can oppose that and put it to a vote. I’m very confident we would win any vote, and I think it’s then for the government to legislate.

“People can’t wait for their basic rights any longer, and that’s why I’ve taken the decision, along with my colleagues in the Labour Party, to pursue this at Westminster.”

Meanwhile, peers in the House of Lords are working on a separate proposal that would bring about change on the issue, with Northern Irish equality campaigner Jeff Dudgeon.

The more complex proposal would include an amendment to Northern Ireland’s devolution settlement and would give the UK government 12 months to bring about equality through secondary legislation.

Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, Mr Dudgeon said that the DUP could actually be relieved to see the issue taken out of their hands.

He said: “I suspect that some in the DUP would be pleased if the matter could be dealt with at Westminster, taking it off their Assembly agenda. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t vote against it at Westminster.”

Prior to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a majority of lawmakers had actually already voted in favour of an equal marriage bill

But the bill was stopped in its tracks when the DUP used a peace process power known as the ‘petition of concern’ to override the democratic vote.

Explainer: Why doesn’t Northern Ireland have equal marriage yet?